It’s a pretty exciting time to be teaching in higher education. There has been a wave of critical evaluation (mostly by the teachers themselves) which has led to a great deal of progress over the past couple of years. This has led to a recognition that lecture-based courses are not the “be all and end all” of university teaching, and that there are better ways to do things. Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs for short) are playing quite a large role in redefining how university teachers engage with their students and how we think about delivering the student experience.
The new MOOC from the University of Leeds is called “Fairness and Nature: When Worlds Collide”, and is being run by Professor Jon Lovett in the School of Geography. Jon is a charismatic and passionate guy with a wide range of experiences in the interaction between people and the nature world, and it is these themes that are explored in the course. If you want to find out more, head over to the FutureLearn site and sign up (it’s free!). Here’s a taster:
There are some key characteristics of MOOCs that make them different from conventional university courses:
- Variable length – MOOCs can be anything from 1 week to 12 weeks, with the breadth and depth of content varying accordingly.
- Entirely online – with no need to rely on built infrastructure, MOOCs can (and, indeed, do!) cater for tens of thousands of students, rather than the usual hundred or so.
- Flexible study – because of the online nature, students can participate whenever is convenient for them. Sometimes this means that students drop-off entirely (completion rates are relatively low) but that isn’t really the point of MOOCs. MOOCs are frequently designed to provide access to education for as many people as want it, and any learning is a bonus.
- Flexible structure – the online platform allows a wide variety of multimedia, interactive, connected resources to form the backbone of a course. These make for a very engaging learning experience.
All these factors combine to make a new and interested way of teaching and engaging a wider range of students, and I look forward to seeing where the MOOC movement goes.